Lahore, Jul 1 (PTI) An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced to death a former security guard for killing his bank’s manager over blasphemy allegations in the country’s eastern Punjab province last year.
The court in Sargodha city, some 190 kms from here, on Wednesday handed down the capital punishment to Ahmed Nawaz and also imposed a fine of Rs 600,000 (USD 3,795) on him after the prosecution presented witnesses.
Nawaz, who was posted as a security guard at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) branch in Khushab district, some 250 kms from here, last year opened fire at his boss -- branch manager Malik Imran Hanif -- killing him on the spot.
Later, he claimed that the bank manager had committed blasphemy. Local clerics came out in his support and laid a siege of the police station in which he was detained.
The police registered a murder case against Nawaz and included terrorism clauses on the complaint of the victim’s family which denied that Hanif had committed any blasphemy.
It claimed that Nawaz had played the “blasphemy card” to get away from punishment.
The victim’s family said that Nawaz had a grudge against Hanif for not giving him an annual increment and that he had a quarrel with Hanif before he shot him dead.
The “blasphemy card” is often played in Pakistan to frame one's rivals.
Pakistan's blasphemy laws and their prescribed punishments are considered extremely severe. The people accused of blasphemy are usually deprived of the right to a counsel of their choice as most lawyers refuse to take up such sensitive cases.
The blasphemy laws are colonial-era legislation but they were amended by former military dictator General Ziaul Haq which increased the severity of prescribed punishments.
The rights campaigners say blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal disputes in the Muslim-majority country.
A US government advisory panel report says Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world.
Mere allegations of blasphemy have triggered violence against minorities. Several persons accused of committing blasphemy have been lynched in recent years. PTI MZ CPS AKJ CPS